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Don't count your Sundances before they're hatched

Published June 20, 2012 7:54 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Every year, about this time, The Cricket feels obliged to offer this bit of friendly advice to the independent moviemakers of America: Don't talk about the Sundance Film Festival.

Yes, of course, you're in the middle of filming your movie, a labor of love for which you have sacrificed blood, toil, tears and your parents' Visa card. Your goal is to finish the shoot, and get a rough edit completed to meet this fall's submission deadline for next year's Sundance Film Festival.

The dream is to get into Sundance, have a rapturously received screening at the Eccles Theatre, then retreat to the hotel — where Fox Searchlight, Focus Features and Harvey Weinstein will proceed to kill each other bidding for distribution rights to your film.

It's a good dream. But it's a dream that you should keep to yourself.

Eric Heisserer and his producers didn't keep it to themselves.

Heisserer, whose screenwriting credits include the remakes of "The Thing" and "A Nightmare on Elm Street," recently finished filming his directorial debut, "Hours," in New Orleans. It's a thriller, set in a hospital during the storms and floods of Hurricane Katrina, starring Paul Walker ("The Fast and the Furious").

Mike Scott wrote about Heisserer's movie, which completed shooting last month, for The Times-Picayune, the (for now) daily paper in New Orleans. In the article, Scott wrote the following:

"Producers hope to have it ready in time for January's Sundance Film Festival, which they hope to follow with a 2013 theatrical release."

Now, it's very possible that "Hours" will make it to Sundance — and The Cricket will be happy to congratulate Heisserer and company if it does. And this will not be the first article about a movie in production that mentions Sundance as the ambition of the film's makers.

But saying in June that your plan is to go to Sundance is like telling a pitcher in the fifth inning that he's throwing a no-hitter. It's like selling NBA playoff tickets in December. It's iike buying an engagement ring after the first date.

It's premature.

It gets your — and, what's worse, your investors' — expectations raised unrealistically. This becomes a problem come Thanksgiving, when Sundance programmers start calling filmmakers whose films have been picked for January's festival. If you don't get that call, what's your back-up plan? And what do you tell those investors who thought they would be partying with Robert Redford?

Just don't do it. Get the movie done, and the rest will sort itself out.